Frontline staff who will take on the role of “named persons” in Scotland fear it could undermine their trust with families and may result in them being sued, a survey has found.
Health visitors say they are not prepared for the responsibility and face growing stress levels.
A survey of workers has concluded that pushing ahead with the scheme is “not sensible at this time”.
The Scottish Government scheme is due to be rolled out in August. It has met with opposition from campaign groups, although children’s organisations support the plans. A survey by public services union Unison of about 30 health visitors in January found more than half (52 per cent) felt the “named person” scheme contained in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2011 would not be a “good thing”.
Health workers set out a string of concerns, including the reaction of families.
“The role of health visiting is based on a relationship with the family,” one Unison member said. “I am worried that because of the legislation that relationship will change and parents will become resentful and refuse the service resulting in conflict.”
Another adds: “It will leave the health visiting service as scapegoats when children are harmed, not meeting their potential or when parents feel they are not getting what they are entitled to, such as nursery places.”
Concerns that health visitors could become a “dumping ground” for other services were also raised, along with fears of a lack of qualified staff to “ensure safe delivery of the service”.
The survey concludes that Scotland’s health visitors are “a workforce with low morale, facing increased responsibilities, feeling stretched to the limits.
“Adding new and vital child protection responsibilities to the role of visitors is not sensible at this time.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said 500 extra health visitors are being taken on to deal with the change. He added: “The role of the Named Person is to provide a single point of contact for parents and children who can help and support them in liaising with other services.
“Our investment in the health visitor workforce will ensure families can have a contact they can trust in the early years of their child’s life who will always have their best interests at heart.”
Simon Calvert of the No to Named Persons campaign said: “We now have named persons themselves queuing up to attack the very scheme they have been tasked with carrying out.”